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Slowly, Then All At Once

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There was a silent, thick snow falling over the world. It muffled every sound, until Levi wasn’t entirely convinced that he hadn’t gone completely deaf. Heavy, wet flakes drifted down onto his cloak, which he tugged more tightly around himself as he crossed the courtyard, glancing up at the window of the room he was aiming to reach.

Erwin and the other squad leaders had spent a lot of time putting together the plan they would be enacting that morning. With defenses at the walls now reduced, public opinion was turning onto the military branches, and with Annie Leonhardt still in her crystal tomb, the Survey Corps had to recover some ground or they’d find themselves disbanded.

Levi didn’t want to guess what that would mean for his squad. Eren, Mikasa, Armin, all the other brats, they’d be shared out between the branches and Eren would be lucky to make his next birthday, if the Police had anything to do with it.

They’d made the decision, given Eren’s basement key and the pressures being placed on them, to retake Shingashina.

Levi sighed as he started up the stairs to Erwin’s office. Part of him felt like it was suicide, but another part of him felt like they had no other choice. He idly rubbed his eyes as he made the first landing, then he found himself almost punching his own eye out as someone hurtled into him.

He reacted more quickly than the other and caught hold of their elbows, blinking to clear his eyes and ascertain who it was. “Arlert?” he asked, sounding a little sleepier than he usually liked to when dealing with the men. “Why are you skulking around?”

Armin blinked owlishly, his whole body going stiff in Levi’s hands, and he stuttered over a few syllables until Levi let him go. He didn’t know if Levi had any idea how much he admired him - most people seemed to forget Armin over Eren - nor how utterly distracting his closeness was. “I-I was… Sir.”

Levi tilted his head, then replied, “You were…?”

Armin swallowed and looked at Levi’s boots. Levi wasn’t used to looking down on anyone, but given Armin’s slight frame, it wasn’t hard to, and he waited patiently for the kid to find the words he was hunting for. “The Commander asked me to come up when I woke up. He… He’s worried about Eren.”

Levi’s eyebrows raised at that, but he nodded in reply and stepped to one side so Armin could move passed him. “Go and wake everyone. I want those horses tacked up and all the supplies restocked. Understand?”

Armin looked down, and nodded fitfully before turning and almost scurrying passed Levi down the set of stairs. Levi shrugged to himself, then finished climbing the stairs and let himself into Erwin’s office.

Laid out on the table were the maps and plans they’d made when they’d been establishing the current action they were about to undertake. Slowly, the other Squad Leaders crept in, and altogether, they went over the plan once more, rehearsing it time and time again to ensure they were all up to speed on every detail, before they left the room in convoy to start preparing their horses as well as themselves.

Armin hadn’t let Levi down. Every soldier was awake and either tacking up, gearing up or mounting their horses, a dull silence amplified by the snow. He found his horse, prepped and ready, checked her over, then made sure all his gear was ready to go.

As he strapped on his scabbards, he mentally ran through the plan. It was simple, but immensely risky. His squad, with Erwin and Mike providing back up, was going to get Eren to the huge hole in Wall Maria—alive, hopefully. From there, they protect Eren while he transformed into his Titan form, keeping him safe while he blocked up the hole in the wall using a gate from a secondary wall, while the Garrison brought down another gate to block up the newly created hole.

That was the theory, anyway. However, between them and the hole were nearly 300 Titans. Even with the 250 strong force Erwin had brought together, Levi still thought they were outnumbered. The death toll would be catastrophic, if the plan even worked at all, but with the discontent stemming from the public, and pressure from the other military branches, they had to try something, before the Survey Corps was disbanded completely.

He swung carefully up into his saddle, checking his girth and stirrups out of habit, and then settled himself in his seat before untying Lancet, picking up his reins and steering her towards the five members of his squad.

Armin Arlert, Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, Jean Kirschtein and Historia Reiss. Levi hadn’t chosen them, Erwin had, but they functioned well as a team when they were in training together, and Levi just guided them more than anything. Even if he frequently wanted to punch himself in the face because of how dumb they could be.

“Good morning, Heichou,” Historia said with a polite smile, pulling her thick cloak around herself tighter to keep the cold out. She was so slight, it was a marvel that she hadn’t frozen to her saddle, but he noticed she was wearing gloves and a scarf he couldn’t recall her wearing previously.

He nodded to her reply in acknowledgement, checking the others over quickly and looking at their horses to ensure all were well. From what he could see, they were, and he had to remind himself to trust them and their decisions. He looked at Eren, and said, “Is everything ready?”

Eren held Levi’s stare and nodded, “Everything.”

Mikasa opened her mouth to speak, but Erwin calling for the company to move out, obliterating whatever she had to say. It was probably a grand sweeping statement about protecting Eren; Mikasa liked reminding him that she would protect Eren, and usually threw in a comment that Levi wasn’t capable of doing the same.

He held his tongue, and fell in amongst the whole company with Armin on his right and Eren to his left. They were all supposed to just appear as one large group, anyway, and Levi was keen they stay close to the middle to ensure no one got picked off early.

The streets beyond the yard were lined with people. Levi’s less charitable side reminded him that most of the people out on the pavement, watching the horses and their riders walk by, were more interested in guessing how many of the hundreds wouldn’t come home, rather than seeing them off safely, but many of the younger recruits still seemed buoyed up by the perceived support.

There was no great charge like there had been for the 57th Expedition. The gates rolled open and they trotted forward as one, every eye fixed forward on the snowy grass beyond the Wall and the heavy, grey, leaden sky above that. Shinganshina was roughly east of them as the crow flew, and at full gallop, it would take them about thirteen minutes to make it to the shattered gate they would use as their ingress.

As the last of the soldiers came through the first gate, Erwin called for a gallop, and every horse in the company threw itself forward. Usually, there’d have been at least a few whoops of excitement, but this time there was not a single sound, just every horse rising through its gaits with their rider steady on their backs.

Levi’s eyes weren’t on their destination - his horse would carry him there with the others - but instead were fixed on the empty space either side of the whole group. For the next few minutes, they were completely out of luck if a Titan or two turned up.

The next minutes passed agonisingly slowly. Levi felt like the world had been steeped in sugar, a molasses-like texture to their action as the gate seemed to loom further and further away. Was it shrinking? It looked like it was.

The first hoofbeats to ring out in the shattered gateway of Shinganshina were sweeter than any other sound Levi could recall hearing. However, that feeling of hope and elation was short-lived, and before he could even begin to enjoy the sensation, there was screaming.

Eren had fallen a little behind, dropping back with Mikasa and Jean, leaving Levi, Historia and Armin together near the front of the line. Levi leaned out and caught the reins of Armin’s horse, pulling both their horses up in front of Historia’s, which caused a pile up of horses and soldiers. “Stop!” Levi looked around for the source of the voice, almost feeling surprised at it being Jean. “Fall ba-”

Levi leaned across and punched Jean’s shoulder hard. “If we fall back now, all this will have been for nothing,” he hissed, turning his horse back around and looking out at everyone. “Follow me.” He wheeled his horse in a tight circle and aimed her at the broken gate, pushing passed the others and leading the way through the gate.

It was a bloodbath. Could Titans lay in wait for people? Because if they could, that’s exactly what they’d been doing. There was more blood than Levi had seen in a while, and there were so many dead. Forty, at least, he counted in the short span of time between passing through the gate and firing his maneuver gear. He yelled out an order for the others in his team to follow him.

Landing on the nearest roof, he turned around to look for his men - look for anyone. His hurried search was foiled by a 14 metre class Aberrant that crashed through the roof of the building he was standing on. He launched off, doing what he did best.

Killing Titans.

Although he didn’t hear Eren transform, Levi put his trust in his squad. He knew Eren would survive, no matter what, with Mikasa by his side. Historia and Kirschtein would be okay, he hoped, which left Arlert, who was braver and brighter than most anyone else Levi had met.

He aimed for the shattered gate the Colossal Titan and Armoured Titan destroyed five years previously. If the plan had succeeded, then all the others would be headed that way as well, and the best thing he could do to help them was to kill as many Titans on his way over there.

Levi heard the familiar sound of Eren’s Titan transformation, then he felt a tug on his line. That momentary slip of concentration had been enough for a passing Titan to catch his line, and before Levi could even react, he hit the ground hard enough that the whole world went black.

*~*~*

Levi’s eyes opened slowly. They stung, like there was something in both of them, but he could only lift one hand to rub at his eyes. The other one, his left… He could feel it, and wriggle both fingers, but lifting it was out of the question. He looked down and found it neatly bandaged and in a sling that was so perfectly creased he wondered if he’d done it in his sleep.

He glanced around and made to sit up properly, rather than leaning on an old chair that smelled of dampness and death, but his left hip screamed at him, forcing him to gasp. He shifted his left leg awkwardly, and found he had pretty good movement and feeling, reassuring him that nothing was broken, but his left arm hadn’t been so lucky. Broken. Bleeding, too, or it had been - it had probably taken most of his weight.

“S-sir?”

Levi startled at the sound of the voice, soft and timid, but close enough to surprise him.

“Sorry sir,” Armin said sheepishly, stepping out into the muted light and rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Levi shook his head, then regretted it as his vision spun and made him feel sick to his stomach. “I’ve had worse. Report.”

“You’ve broken your arm in a few places, and your hip was-”

“Not about me, Arlert. The mission. The others.” Levi didn’t like to sound so dismissive, but he had too much pain in his body and too little energy to pander to Armin’s insecurities.

Armin looked at his boots, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot as he thought about the answer he was about to give. “I don’t know, sir. Eren and Mikasa… I saw Eren’s Titan form, but I-I don’t know where they are now.” Armin swallowed, feeling the fear and worry that had been brewing inside him start to spill over in his voice. “Commander Erwin and Squad Leader Hanji Zoe called for a retreat, but the Titans… Sir, there were Titans everywhere. They cut us off.”

Levi listened in silence, wishing Armin would get to the point. He was quite low on every reserve he had, and honestly, he just wanted to know if anyone had survived besides them.

“As I tried to find a horse, I found you, sir. I dragged you in here and tried to treat your injuries, then I retrieved a couple of horses,” Armin said softly, then added, “I don’t know if anyone else is alive.”

The tears wouldn’t stay in his eyes any longer, and Armin’s head dropped so he could cry, his hands covering his face like he didn’t want Levi to see.

Levi moved forward, going as slowly as he could so he didn’t jar himself too badly, standing up by using his right leg to take the most weight and leaning on the wall so he could awkwardly limp over to the window. Armin didn’t need an audience, and Levi had to find a way for them to get back to the city. He stared out of the window at the falling snow and steely sky, wracking his brain to formulate a plan.

He didn’t notice Armin crossing the room to stand beside him, so jumped a little when he realised the kid was right there, less than an arms’ length away. His face was red and blotchy, a few wet patches on his jacket, but he had a determined look in his eyes and stance that Levi wasn’t about to argue with.

“If we can get on the horses after nightfall, we can use the cover of the wall to skirt around to the main gate and get back to the city,” Levi said quietly, glancing at Armin to check he was okay. Armin nodded mutely, looking at the snow building on the windowsill outside. “If anyone survived this, it was Ackerman and Jaeger,” he said sharply, a frown on his face. Levi was aiming for supportive and reassuring, but missed by a long shot.

“I’m worried they’re gone without me,” Armin whispered, his voice hardly audible. He turned to look at Levi, and added, “And I’m worried you won’t make it back.”

Levi’s eyebrows shot up with genuine surprise, and though he wanted to look away, he held Armin’s gaze. “I will. Nothing’s managed to kill me off yet, although there’s always the chance.” He frowned quickly, “Why would you worry about that?”

Armin blushed and looked away, shifting again from foot to foot. “I don’t want you to die, either.”

Levi nodded as though Armin had merely stated that it was snowing. Did people really worry about him? He couldn’t fathom why, honestly, but he wasn’t about to stress Armin by querying. “I need to sit down again,” he said instead, “I need to lean on you to get back over there.”

Armin said nothing, just turned around and gave Levi his shoulders to lean on, supporting him over to the chair he’d been in before, still blushing from the contact and the things he’d admitted to Levi.

*~*~*

Getting on the horse Armin had found was the single most painful thing Levi had experienced in his whole life.

They’d found a wall he could just about scramble onto, and Armin held the bay horse as still as he could, but there was still a moment as he mounted where Levi’s weight shifted onto his injured hip, and he couldn’t help but cry out in pain. He sat stock still for a few moments, letting his bruised body adjust to his weight again, before he took up the reins.

“Follow me,” he called as Armin swung up onto his horse’s saddle, and wheeled around to face the direction they were going to be heading in. Levi started his horse at a walk, then a loping trot, and tried to sit through a canter but the gait jarred him around too much. He pulled up and bent double, regaining himself.

“Sir?” Armin pulled his horse up beside Levi, concern written all over his face. Levi nodded, then glanced at Armin and tried not to look as broken as he felt.

“I’m okay. Let’s go,” Levi replied, kicking his horse into a trot and leading Armin towards the ruined gate.

They saw and heard nothing and no one. In a lot of ways, Levi was glad - other forces meant distractions, and that was the last thing they needed - but he’d also been hoping to see some other soldiers that could support them on their way back to the city. Or his friends, or hell, anyone from his company.

They weren’t that lucky. Even as they approached the gate, Levi wondered what the death toll would be, how many families would get letters from the Commander explaining that their child, their brother, father or sister was gone.

Chapter Text

Levi woke up with a start. As his arm shot with pain and his hip ached, he regretted it, but something had stirred him from a deep sleep. While he couldn’t recall why he’d woken up, he realised quickly that his reflexes had identified someone coming into the room.

The infirmary ward was quiet and dark, the only sounds coming from the other patients as they slept or the occasional rattle of the windows in the strong, wintery wind outside.

Levi pulled his blanket tighter around himself, having to maneuver around his injured arm artfully, and found one corner wouldn’t move. He squinted a little in the dim light at the end of his bed, then frowned as he found Armin asleep, slumping out of a chair and onto the end of the bed. Levi stopped trying to pull the blanket up and instead shuffled further down into the bed some with a defeated sigh.

He was in too much pain to sleep now, so settled in, staring at the ceiling and thinking carefully.

Both Armin and himself had safely made it back to the gate leading into the city. When they returned, Levi discovered that far more soldiers had made it back to the city they’d left that morning, although their casualty list was extensive. There had been forty or so deaths, a hundred injuries of varying degrees, and the rest had scraped by generally unharmed.

As Levi looked at the ceiling, squinting a little at it in the dim light, he wondered if it was good or bad luck that he’d come off injured like he had. Armin had stayed with him, right at his side, helped him off his horse and to the medical tent, and only then after the nurses shooed him off had Armin left him alone. Levi couldn’t quite decide if Armin was a nuisance or a decent companion, though he knew he would have plenty of time to assess that further during his recovery.

Much of the rest of the day Levi couldn’t remember. They’d given him medication, then he’d rolled in and out of consciousness for most of the day, waking up to find himself either surrounded by people or completely alone, every time hazy and half-conscious, until he’d been startled out of sleep by the boy draped across his bed.

He looked down the bed at Armin, and found himself frowning deeper. He expected this level of devotion from Eren, who appeared to be and certainly acted like Levi’s greatest fan, but Armin? That had completely thrown Levi off.

The kid was sweet, and smarter than almost anyone else Levi had ever met. If he lived long enough, Levi knew Armin would succeed in the military or in some academic pursuit later in life. In that moment, he hoped Armin would go on to be more than just a soldier.

He leaned down and touched Armin’s shoulder gently, the frown not abating from his face until the blond started to stir. Armin woke up a little, then settled back down, so Levi took to squeezing his bicep until Armin woke up properly.

He seemed almost surprised to find Levi there, which amused Levi a little, then Armin smiled so widely and honestly, it shocked Levi. “Captain?”

“You’ll hurt your back sleeping like that,” Levi replied quietly, drawing his hand back, then rolling onto his right side so he could look at Armin without craning his neck around.

Armin sat up and stretched, clearly a little bothered by an ache low in his back, but he didn’t comment on it. “How… How are you feeling?” Armin asked timidly, sitting straighter in his chair and flexing his back.

Levi blinked slowly and thought about that carefully before he answered. “I’ve had better days. I’ll live,” he replied with a feeling of relief as Armin smiled at him for his answer. “You should go to bed.”

Armin shook his head, “No, Sir. I wanted to stay here, to make sure you were alright.” He blushed and looked at the knitted bed cover, picking at a loose thread.

“I’m alright. Go to bed.” Levi had a feeling, even as he said that, that Armin wouldn’t listen to him. He didn’t understand why, not at all.

Oh. Oh.

Realisation dawned, and Levi found himself feeling uncomfortable as he finally figured it out. He blinked down at Armin, then said, “Do you want to stay because it’s me, or out of some false sense of duty?”

Armin went a shade of scarlet that Levi didn’t realise was possible for a human to go, and Levi looked away like he’d intruded on something private. “Because it’s you, Sir. Eren… The others are all fine, and I don’t want to go to bed.”

Levi leaned behind him and picked up a spare pillow that had been against his back, tossing it one-handedly down the bed to Armin. “Then at least look comfortable. You’re making my back hurt just looking at you,” he replied, his tone almost teasing rather than sharp.

Armin nodded and put the pillow on Levi’s bed, curling against it and drifting off to sleep quickly. Levi was awake a little longer, then soon slipped back to sleep again.

*~*~*

Over the following two weeks, Levi learned more about Armin Arlert than he ever thought possible. Eren and Mikasa had made it safely through the mission, which had been a success despite the heavy losses, but Armin seemed to spend more of his time with Levi than his friends.

Levi spent three further days in the infirmary before they would let him go back to his own room. He was surprised to find it aired out and tidier than when he left it, and as he started to write up his report from the mission, Armin came in and kept him company.

It was, at first, purely work. They talked about the mission, Annie Leonhardt, the Armoured and Colossal Titans, Eren and the walls. Slowly, their conversations progressed to Eren and Mikasa, Levi listening as Armin animatedly told him stories about their childhoods and how they met, noticing day by day that Armin grew more relaxed and open around him. It was pleasant to see him opening up and feeling less shy; his words were no longer stuttered or muddled, and he looked Levi in the eye rather than at his boots.

Levi enjoyed having Armin around. He liked listening to his stories, sharing some of his own and discussing and debating the current Titan situation and Armin even helped him to move around and organise himself until he could manage it on his own.

Levi quickly learned to cope with having a broken left arm and a badly bruised and sprained left hip, and found himself resuming his more basic tasks in his job, though he didn’t go to any meetings or discussions. Erwin had insisted on it, and Levi didn’t argue - especially as it meant Armin was around him that much more.

So it was that two weeks later they were tucked away in the small library-come-quiet room at the barracks, Armin reading and Levi scribbling down notes from a thick tome about military strategies. Really, they were both just filling time, but it was a pleasant way to do it, and it kept them well out of the other’s way while they carried out the tasks they were being paid to do.

“Sir? Have you seen this?” Armin stood up from the leather chair he’d been reading in and crossed the room, putting his book down in front of Levi and leaning over his shoulder.

Levi turned his attention to the book Armin had brought over, looking at the contents of the page carefully. There were various diagrams of wall structure, but the picture in the bottom right corner he knew was what had caught Armin's eye. The picture was tiny, but it was definitely the ocean, and it made Levi smile quickly up at Armin and nod. "One day. We'll all get to go and see the ocean, one day."

Armin looked at Levi and smiled brightly, then realised just how close their faces were. Levi wasn't moving away, either, still intently looking at Armin with that peaceful half-almost-smile on his face. Armin closed the few inches between their lips and timidly kissed Levi, then pulled away and blushed scarlet. "I'm sorry sir I'll..."

He stepped back, then murmured that he was leaving and was gone before Levi could even really process what had happened, or attempt to stop Armin from hurrying off. Levi's fingertips brushed against his lips, frowning to himself and flushing bright red as his mouth quirked up into a tiny smile.

*~*~*

Armin sat at the dinner table, staring into his tea long after everyone else had left. He'd kissed Levi. That's how stupid and childish and idiotic he was. His hands gripped against the cup until his knuckles blanched, playing the moment over and over in his mind, shame mingling with excitement.

An optimistic part of his mind reminded him that Levi hadn't pulled away either, but that was drowned out by the embarrassment that burned red in his mind. He shook his head, then lifted his hand and rubbed his eyes angrily. "Stupid stupid stupid-"

"Who?" The voice made Armin jump so violently he spilled his tea onto the tabletop. He anxiously turned around on his chair and looked for the source, reddening as he saw it was Levi who'd entered the room.

Levi limped across the room to sit beside Armin, awkwardly settling himself down, then turning to look at Armin. "Why did you run away earlier?" he asked, his tone more curious than anything else.

Armin looked at Levi then, surprised. "I thought you... I thought you would be angry with me."

Levi huffed a quiet laugh and shook his head, looking down at the tabletop and mopping up the tea with a scrap of cloth nearby. "I'm not. I was surprised, but I'm not angry." He sighed quietly then straightened up the cloth neatly. "How long have you wanted to kiss me?"

Armin screwed his face up anxiously, "A while..." He looked at his lap, "I just... Did it. I should've thought, I'm sorry..."

"Don't apologise. I... want to do it again." Levi liked the look of surprise on Armin's face at that statement. "If you wanted to, of course."

Armin glanced fully at Levi then and nodded shyly, a little smile on his face. He started to say something, but was cut off when Levi caught his jaw and kissed him again, properly. Armin's hands curled around Levi's wrist, leaning into him so much he almost fell off of his chair, only saved by Levi catching him carefully by the arm.

It was wrong. Levi could feel that niggle of doubt in his head, not just because he was Armin's superior, but because he couldn't help but think he was more than fond of him. As they pulled apart, he smiled slightly at Armin. "This is... I shouldn't..."

Armin's face utterly crumpled, his blonde head dropping to his chest. "I said I shouldn't. Not that I wouldn't. Stop frowning," Levi said, nudging him with his knuckles, "Now kiss me again before someone comes in."

Chapter Text

It was early summer, when long evenings stretched into warm nights and it seemed like it would never grow dark again. Levi healed well as he always did, and was back to full duties within a month after the mission to regain control over Shingashina. The mission itself had been a complete success, which had secured the Survey Corps' funding for another few months to a year, and already plans were underway for a second mission into Shingashina to try and retrieve whatever was in Eren's basement.

Levi was sitting at his desk, late in the evening and far beyond his normal bedtime, his pen scrawling words into the paper reporting back on the plans to take Eren and find out what was being kept in his basement. He rubbed his cheek with his knuckle, feeling the hairs prickling up on the back of his neck as a floorboard behind him creaked.

He stiffened then relaxed, and called, "You're going to have to try a little harder than that, Armin."

The blond tutted defeatedly, walking into the room fully and over to Levi, leaning against him and nuzzling into his neck. "Am I ever going to be able to sneak up on you?"

Levi leaned back and rested his head against Armin’s shoulder. “No time soon. I don’t think Erwin would be impressed if I started being easy to sneak around.”

Armin sighed and kissed Levi’s neck, straightening then looking at what Levi was writing. Levi finished the sentence he was writing, then sealed his fountain pen and pushed his chair back. Armin took the opportunity and space to slip into Levi’s lap, his back against the desk and hands flat on Levi’s chest. “He was overseeing Hanji’s training with Eren today, now you mention him. Sitting on that big horse and just kind of staring, then talking to Hanji before-”

Levi did love listening to Armin talk, but they’d been apart all day and he wanted to kiss him more than listen to him speak about Eren, Hanji or anyone else. So he did just that, stilling Armin’s lips and putting them to better use, leaning up to kiss him gently, then he rested back into his chair and patiently said, “You can carry on, now.”

Armin was a little pink and opened his mouth to speak and continue his story, but instead laughed and shook his head. “I forgot where I go to,” he admitted shyly, “But I’m not complaining. You distract me all the time, so I should be used to it.”

Levi smiled a little at that. Armin had much the same effect on him, too, particularly when he was sat in his lap like this, and Levi knew the blond knew it. Especially considering that Armin would take any opportunity to sit in his lap. “I don’t have to try too hard though, do I?”

Armin reddened further and shook his head, his fingertips touching over the harness across Levi’s chest, then crept along to the buckle, pulling it a fraction tighter then releasing it so it hung loose. Levi looked down at Armin’s fingers, watching them work, then he looked back up at Armin’s face and the wry smile stuck there.

Levi relaxed against the chair, letting Armin do what he wanted to do. Whenever they were intimate, he very much let Armin learn and take the lead on how far they went and how. Levi didn’t need to top everyone, and he was well seasoned in being dominant when someone else was driving anyway.

Armin pushed Levi’s jacket off of his shoulders, and Levi shifted forward to give Armin space to pull the jacket all the way off, then his harness followed, dropping until it fell against the chair and hung down. “So, Arlert, now what?”

Armin smiled, leaning in to kiss Levi, then shrugged bashfully. “I hadn’t planned too far ahead, honestly,” he said, kissing Levi’s cheek, “Just wanted to get your jacket off.”

Levi cracked another smile at that. “Seduced by Armin Arlert. Seems like a nice way to spend an evening,” he replied, pushing Armin’s jacket off of his shoulders and draping it over his work like he was covering it up so it didn’t bother him for the rest of the night.

Armin laughed softly, shirking out of his harness then undoing Levi’s cravat, folding it up neatly and putting it behind him on top of his own jacket. “Don’t you get hot wearing that all summer?”

Levi shook his head, “I suppose I’m adjusted to it.” Armin took that as an acceptable answer, his fingers going back to work at undoing Levi’s shirt this time.

In response, Levi started doing likewise to Armin from his waistband up, pausing when he couldn’t reach around Armin’s hands anymore and instead relaxed back and watched Armin carefully.

He shivered as Armin’s fingertips ran across his abdomen, lingering over the bottom of Levi’s ribs. Armin listed forward, slipping down a little so he could rest his cheek against the centre of Levi’s chest with his eyes sliding closed contentedly.

Levi carded his fingers through Armin’s hair, brushing it off his face. Sometimes, especially after missions, Armin would lay awake for hours like this just listening to Levi’s heartbeat, regular and repetitive. Part of it was just knowing there was someone else alive, that he was safe, and part of it was that Levi was safe. The older found it relentlessly endearing, and had no issue with Armin doing this whenever he wanted to.

“I’m still here,” he said quietly after a few minutes sitting still, just letting Armin soak up every beat of his heart.

“I’m making sure,” Armin replied, then he sat up and cupped Levi’s cheeks and kissed him hotly. “M-make… Make love to me?”

Levi paused, looking up at Armin in surprise. They’d done practically everything intimate but sex, and Levi had been more than happy to go at Armin’s pace, so the question surprised him. There weren’t a huge number of people with the power to surprise Levi, but Armin was the top of that list, as he was sitting atop so many for Levi.

He nodded, of course. The answer would always be yes, as with almost any question Armin asked him, especially with how shyly the question had been asked.

Levi pushed the chair back a little, then caught Armin’s hips and took his weight before he stood up. Armin naturally leaned a little to Levi’s right to compensate for his weakened right side from his fall a few months before and curled his arms around Levi’s neck. His thumbs tickled up through the shorter hairs of Levi’s undercut, a smile on his face and the blush on his cheeks stretching down to his chest.

Levi took Armin to his bed, with its perfectly straight linen and pillows, and laid Armin on his back with Levi leaning over him. Levi pulled his shirt off all the way then toed out of his boots, loosening then peeling off his harness and leaving it in a neat pile at the end of the bed on the floor. Old habits died hard, after all.

He made a show of tugging Armin’s boots off, his fingers stroking Armin’s calves through his uniform trousers as the boots came off, then he added Armin’s harness to the collection off the side of his bed. Then Armin’s shirt was unbuttoned properly, folded and put on the floor, before Levi leaned back over Armin to kiss him again.

Armin gasped into the kiss, his arms coming up and encircling Levi’s neck as his legs curled around Levi’s hips, pulling him close as he could and arching against him. Armin had this passion and heat to him Levi lived for now, and it showed so much when they were like this.

Levi kissed down Armin’s chin, then along his jawline right to the edge below his ear, where he kissed repeatedly. That had Armin gasping and moaning, his hips rocking up against Levi’s, fingertips tight against Levi’s shoulder blades.

Levi had a good memory anyway, but he had an exceptional one for the erogenous zones of one Armin Arlert. The inch of neck below his ears were particularly sensitive, along with the back of his neck and his hip bones, all of which Levi adored assailing until Armin was writhing for him.

That day, though, he was more fixed on relaxing Armin than turning him on too much too soon. It was always fun edging his lover, but Levi had a plan in mind that wasn’t about riling Armin up; it was about making him feel amazing and enjoy himself.

Levi kissed lower on Armin’s neck and undid the buttons on his trousers, one-handedly tugging them down Armin’s narrow hips, then doing likewise with his own. He’d have to move and get rid of them, as well as fetch lubricant, but he had time. Lots of it.

Levi gently marked Armin’s collarbone, leaving a small hickey behind which had Armin moaning louder, his nails biting into Levi’s shoulders. “L-Levi…”

Levi looked up at Armin, who was flushed pink and panting already. Levi tipped his head to one side, as though he had no possible idea what he was doing which could have garnered such a reaction. “Yes?” he said with a quick smile. He sat up and peeled off first Armin’s, then his own trousers, his hand snaking into the nearest chest of drawers and retrieving the little pot of lubricant from inside and dropping it on the bed.

He went back to laying between Armin’s legs, making sure he pinned Armin’s length against his hip enough to apply pressure without being painful. Armin yelped, his back arching up and head rolling back into the pillows, which gave Levi time to pick up the lube, open it and slick up his right hand.

“It’s going to be pretty cold, and it’ll sting a little. Tell me if I hurt you,” Levi whispered in Armin’s ear. Armin nodded, turning his face around to Levi’s and kissed him, his hands returning to around Levi’s neck.

Levi leaned into the kiss enthusiastically, putting his hand between them and slowly sliding a finger inside Armin. The feeling had Armin breaking the kiss to gasp and keen, rocking his hips against Levi’s hand already - it was just so good and felt like he’d been missing it, though he’d never felt it before.

Levi rocked his hand to give Armin plenty of time to adjust to that, then added his next finger, and the next, each time patiently rocking his wrist to stretch Armin out and prep him up good and proper.

Armin was in seventh heaven. He felt like his whole nervous system was alive and tingling, making his breathing ragged and his heart race. He rolled his hips, cried out, begged, kissed Levi’s neck, feeling desperate for something he couldn’t quite explain.

When Levi drew his hand away, Armin protested loudly. He’d been slowly building up to coming, but then Levi was mean and took his hand away, so Armin shared his displeasure. “You’re killing me.”

Levi smirked wickedly and shook his head, “Not yet. You don’t get to come yet.” Armin almost growled low in his throat, his hands going to Levi’s shaft as if to remind him of what he should be doing, which had Levi forget himself for a moment and gasp loudly.

He looked up at Armin and caught his wrists, transferring both into one hand and using his free one to grab a pillow and put under Armin’s hips. Levi slicked himself up, then slowly - what would’ve been teasing to some, but was considerate in that moment - pushed into Armin, only then releasing his lover’s wrists.

Levi stilled, then curled over to kiss Armin, pushing their chests together and leaning against him. “Levi… Levi please,” Armin begged between kisses, rocking his hips a fraction to try and urge Levi to move.

“You’re so impatient.”

“Only… Only when you’re going too slow,” Armin shot back, looking up at Levi and smiling at him. “Please?”

Levi stayed stock still for a moment, then caved and slowly rolled his hips, thrusting up into Armin then pulling out, setting a slow and gentle rhythm so he didn’t hurt Armin too much. Given how broken Armin’s breathing sounded, Levi guessed he wasn’t hurting him very much at all, but he still wanted to take it slowly and make it good.

Good didn’t necessarily mean long. Armin was young, and Levi got that, so when he felt Armin go tight around his cock, his breathing speeding up and growing shallow, he dipped his head to whisper in his ear, “Come, it’s okay, it’s alright.”

Armin practically sobbed in reply, his come coating both their abdomens between them, hot and sticky, and Levi rocked to a stop. Armin came down off his orgasm high, then looked up at Levi and said, “Keep going, keep… Want to feel you come too…”

Levi didn’t need telling twice. He started up his rhythm again and soon came inside Armin, his head dropping to Armin’s shoulder as he gasped and moaned through his orgasm and trembled all over.

*~*~*

“Levi? Are you awake?”

Levi was awake, laid out on his bed on his back with Armin curled up against him, his head again over Levi’s heart to listen to it beat. “Yeah, I’m awake. Why?”

Armin turned his head to look up at Levi and smile at him. “I love you.”

Again, the little blond had successfully surprised a man years older than him, and left the normally sharp-witted Levi almost speechless. Armin looked away nervously, then found Levi’s hand against his cheek, pulling his head up to look at him again. “I know. I think I love you, too.” Armin’s expression changed to one of complete contentment and happiness, as he rested back against Levi’s chest with a sigh, feeling safe and comforted just knowing someone cared about him like that.